365 Grateful: why I may not be a model church-goer

I’m sitting in church on Sunday in the very back as usual. I like it there; it’s comfortable, maybe a bit fringy, which suits my spiritual leanings anyway.

Or maybe it’s because I can indulge my mischievous side, like singing the Korean or Native American phonetic language on hymns (because why not?). Or playing with harmonies and mixing up every part. Or possibly my favorite – bending the pitch, especially the very last note – to create gorgeous, discordant tension.

In other words, I exercise my right brain – the creative side.

Anyway, I’m listening (really), but I notice that I’m staring at one of the stained glass windows in the front, conveniently behind the pastor (which creates the perfect illusion of full-on attention). And I’m done for, because my right brain is now fully engaged with a fascinating inner dialogue. It goes a bit like this:

Is that an elephant?
What’s an elephant doing in a church window?
Wow, it has a very stubby, cartoonish trunk.
No, no… wait. Maybe it’s a pig.
Yeah, a fierce boar.
See? There’s an eye (hmmm, the same one as the elephant, actually).
So maybe that’s NOT an elephant at all but a boar.
Yes! It’s lunging with teeth bared toward – well, I don’t know – some biblical figure, maybe, that’s not actually pictured. Wow, that certainly leaves a crucial bit out of the story.
How can that be?
Who designed this window anyway?
Wonder if they were using magic mushrooms at the time?

Within a few seconds my eyes actually catch up to my mind and I see what it really is: it’s a dove, albeit a bit contorted from my vantage point with wings outstretched, although the lack of window width requires a bit of back-winging that connects wingtip to tail, which creates an eyeball … and either a wide-mouthed boar or an elephant with a somewhat pleasant elephantine half smile –despite that slightly truncated trunk.

From where I sit, though, how I see and interpret things now is in full play. And if there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I cultivate seeing and thinking differently. That pretty much always strays into the realm of the absurd or at least the playful, and consequently humorous.

Oh, yeah, this is so worth pondering. I’m thinking it’s possibly an utterly unique interpretation of the great flood with an image of a creature that missed the boat entirely (along with the unicorns, apparently. Alas, the world is surely poorer without that magic). So maybe that window depicts the extinct Boarephant, or the luckless and always late-to-the-party Elphaboar. Quite possibly it’s the even more certifiably weird Dovephantboar.

I mean, so much depends on the artist’s concept and style, doesn’t it? Maybe channeling Picasso for that elephant. Maybe picturing a Chagall boar. Or as it turns out, creating a Van Gogh-esque dove.

Oh, there’s something exhilarating about indulging flights of creative license and puzzling first impressions wherever they may take you. For me, I’ll always see Boars and Elephants and, yes, eventually a Dove, whenever I look toward that window.

Inspiration? Absolutely. Maybe not the artist’s or the church’s intent, but I can’t imagine any higher power NOT appreciating and lauding the human potential for creative thinking.

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